Animal Shelter RileyA new animal shelter is opening in Okatie.

Hi, my name is Riley and I am pleased to talk with you today. I am a two-year-old pit bull, black with white markings. I am well mannered, playful, responsible, protective, smart, healthy, and family oriented. Right now, I am a lucky resident of the Beaufort Animal Control Center on Shelter Church Road. A short while ago, I was a stray running loose on the streets of Beaufort.

Yes, I was a stray, a homeless dog wandering and wondering where I’€™d sleep or where my next meal would come from. I had been living with a young family whom I loved very much. I played ball with the kids, and they sprayed me with water when it got hot. But one day, for whatever reason, the father got really mad, started screaming, and because I was there, he beat me, kicked me and literally threw me out of the house, telling me to get out and never come back. It was cold, I was hurt and alone. I did not know how or where I was going to live.

That outlook changed dramatically a couple of days later as I noticed two people dressed in blue approach me. One had a long pole with a loop at the end. A moment later, the loop was around my neck and I was lifted and placed in the back of a white pick-up type truck. I didn’€™t know if I had been kidnapped or what.

Fortunately, I was taken to the place from which I am speaking to you today – the Beaufort Animal Control Center, staffed by wonderful, dedicated people who care for our welfare. (One Animal Shelter Cagesstaffer has been here for 22 years!) With the number of us animals here, though, it’€™s apparent that these folks could use more help. They all have so much to do to take care of all of us – from exercising and feeding us, to just plain support and love.

Obviously, I love it here. I get my meals, lots of exercise, play time with other dogs, and I even get to chase an occasional cat. But, one criticism I have heard from my friends is that our cages are outside. We must stay outside all the time. Whether it’s freezing cold or hot as blue blazes, we cannot go inside. This time of year, our only cooling devices are old fans that blow on us from outside our cages. We just have to persevere.

From what I understand, a new $8,000,000 state of the art shelter will be opening in Okatie. I’ve seen pictures, and it looks to me like a country club – only it’s for dogs, cats, guinea pigs, snakes, rats, lizards and other creatures. The new facility will be a wonderful place to reside, with access to the indoors in inclement weather. Of course, I’d prefer adoption by a nice family.

Animal Shelter RenderingI’€™m a good listener, and I have learned the Beaufort shelter merged with Hilton Head Humane in 2012. They are always looking to reduce their costs, as well as costs to the taxpayers, and to provide better care. Research proved that uniting the two facilities would be economically sound. And there’s more good news! Thanks to a strong neutering program, the number of animals brought in is down to 3,400 from 6,000 in 2011. And euthanizing is down from 60% to 12-15% – used almost solely for aggressive and aging dogs.

The Beaufort Center has taken a proactive stance on spaying, neutering and adding a computer chip to pets for identification and GPS. A recent campaign called ‘€œTNR’€ (i.e. trap, neuter and return) was very successful. For cats, Tabby House, in Beaufort Town Center, was set up for neutering as well as adoption. Ferrel cats are also brought into the shelter and neutered; often they’re returned to the “€œowner” if the “€œowner” agrees to care for them.

The Beaufort Animal Control Center is also known as a Pit Bull Rescue Center, taking in homeless, stray, and aggressive pits. It is hard for me to figure out why anyone would “€œgive up”€ their pet. Military members get deployed, divorces occur, owners just don’t want us anymore, and we get left behind. I know many people think of us pits as biters, fighters, scary dogs – and, granted, some of us are -€“ but we’€™re not unlike other breeds. We are just as attentive, loving, fun to be with, and wonderful with children, but people often don’€™t give us a chance to prove ourselves. If we were given a chance, we’d be better understood and appreciated.

Did you know a few Beaufort County inmates help take care of us? The same ones you see working on the sides of our roads? They are not “€œcriminals” as portrayed on TV. One inmate told me he failed to pay child support. Another had a DUI charge. They are working and training us to be better and we appreciate them.

The new shelter in Okatie, off of route 170, is due to open in 2109. The combined Beaufort Animal Control and Hilton Head Humane facility will offer an animal control section, spaying and neutering services at a very reasonable price, and adoption. The cages will be bigger, both indoor and outdoor, so we will not be confronted with weather issues. Offensive odors will be controlled. I’m excited to say the least.

By the way, we encourage all families to stop by either at our current shelter or the new one and consider adoption. We can bring a bright light into your family home and everyone is proud to say they have adopted a rescue pup. Bumper stickers with my picture on them are available.

Well, I just heard my name called. Every afternoon about this time, I hear “€œRiley”€ and I know it is time for me to get my afternoon exercise in. I run, jump and talk with other dogs, catching up on the latest gossip and scuttlebutt. Then comes dinner at 6, another walk in the park, and I’€™m off to bed about 10. It’s been a good day. I’m well cared for, and although some of the other dogs bark and make weird noises at night, I am tired enough to get in a good 8 hours of sleep curled up in my cage. Breakfast is served daily at 8 and a new day begins. Can’€™t wait. Thanks for listening.

For more information call Beaufort County Animal Shelter & Control at 843-255-5010.